Monday, April 29, 2013

Shelburne's Historic Waterfront

The town of Shelburne, on Nova Scotia's scenic South Shore, was one of several communities that were destinations for the United Empire Loyalists who fled the United States during and after the American Revolution, from 1775 to 1812. Known in the U.S. as Tories, they had remained loyal to Britain and had not supported the efforts of the revolutionaries, sometimes actively opposing them. On May 4 of 1783, ships carrying 3073 Loyalists from New York anchored in the harbour of what was then known as Port Roseway, dramatically changing the course of southwestern Nova Scotia's history.

Prior to their landing, the entire territory of Nova Scotia, which then included the present-day province of New Brunswick, had a population of less than 20,000.  By the end of 1783, over 35,000 Loyalists had arrived, overwhelming both the limited infrastructure and the ability of the government in Halifax to cope with the arrivals.

In July of 1783, the name of Port Roseway was changed to Shelburne to honour Lord Shelburne, Secretary of State for the colonies who had served briefly as Britain's Prime Minister in 1782.

By 1784, the population of Shelburne had swelled to over 10,000 -- the largest town in British North America and more than twice the size of Halifax. Eventually most of these Loyalists either returned to the United States as the political climate became less hostile, or moved on to other areas of Canada. They left behind a carefully laid-out town with streets named after members of the Royal Family, and a number of handsome and well-constructed homes and businesses. Today, Shelburne provides an interesting stop for the cultural explorer, with its cluster of museums and restored buildings. Shown here, from the top, are the Shelburne County Museum, the Ross-Thomson House, the Old Dory Shop Museum, and the impressive Cox's Warehouse, its cupola and spire added for the filming of The Scarlet Letter in 1995. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Coffee at the Flying Fox

A walk around Shelburne, on Nova Scotia's South Shore a little over 200 km from Halifax, led me to an interesting discovery: the Flying Fox Bake Shop on John Street. Water Street is Shelburne's principal commercial street, running parallel to the waterfront and a block away. Dock Street runs along the harbour through the town's restored historic district, and connecting these two streets there are a series of smaller side streets like John Street, lined with handsomely restored older homes. 

An interesting sign caught my eye as I gazed down John Street toward the water, and I decided to check it out. It was early afternoon, and I was delighted to see the "Open" sign in the window. Entering the storm porch, I took note of the sign inside posting the hours: Noon to 10 pm. The owners, Julie and Jonathan Shand, came here from the Yukon. They opted for afternoon and evening opening since another coffee shop nearby had a well-established early morning clientele and the Shands wanted to be good neighbours.

Inside I was pleased to discover a comfortable room filled with light even on a rainy day. The walls were a soft shade of plum, a cheerful contrast with the calm aqua of the entry hall. Four tables with painted chairs filled the room nicely without crowding. I walked through to the counter to order a cup of their distinctive, full-bodied coffee, fresh from a French press. 

A lighted showcase was filled with a wide variety of sweet treats like mini cheesecakes and confections, and there were cookies and cupcakes as well, beautifully frosted to resemble flowers.

While enjoying my coffee, I took a closer look at the bright, bold paintings on the walls, the work of Holly Everett of Parker's Cove, NS, Artist of the Month for April. The Flying Fox provides gallery space for artists, so the display changes from month to month.

I'm grateful to serendipity for this discovery, and I'm certain that I'll be back to enjoy more great coffee and great art at the Flying Fox Bake Shop -- and next time that lighted showcase will yield up some of its treasure!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Advent of Spring

 Spring seems to be taking its own sweet time arriving this year; the early signs, like crocuses, appear then suddenly disappear under a drift of snow. Warm weather creeps in, the sun makes its presence known, then an icy breeze whips through the trees and we're back in what feels like the dead of winter. Last weekend, though, was one of those brief, enticing tastes of spring and the open road called.  In this case it was a very seldom-used road, one that was constructed to serve a Yarmouth County tin mine in the mid 1980s. The mine, when operating, was the largest primary tin mine in North America; the paved surface of the access road is deeply rutted from the weight of the ore-laden trucks that travelled it regularly, and the countryside is typical southwestern Nova Scotia: mixed hardwood and softwood, with occasional barrens and numerous rocky streams.

At the western end of this road, near Yarmouth, NS, the road crosses a tributary of the Tusket River, flowing through dense Acadian mixed forest. The water flows slowly, forming deep, still pools where trout tempt the angler -- the spring season has just opened and there are plenty of fishermen trying their luck.

A little farther west, near where Nova Scotia Route 203 intersects with Route 340, lies the town of Kempville, the site of one of many small-scale maple sugar operations.  Early spring sees sap buckets hanging from maple trees all over the region; although Nova Scotia's principal maple production is found well to the north of here, these operators manage to produce a small quantity of syrup each year, much sought-after locally. The buckets are a sure sign that elusive as it might be, spring is definitely on the way!

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Rising from the Ashes

White Point Beach Resort was in ruins. A fire on November 12, 2011 had burned the main lodge to the ground, a devastating blow to the 83-year-old seaside getaway. For decades, the lodge had housed an impressive dining room and facilities for a variety of entertainment; a history of the resort can be found here. The potential loss of employment sent shockwaves through the Liverpool, Nova Scotia area, since this was a vital employer of both seasonal and year-round workers.

The decision to rebuild was made almost immediately; the owners set up a webcam so that the public could view the progress of the construction.  Incredibly, less than one year later, on November 8, 2012, the doors of the newly rebuilt lodge re-opened. Like a phoenix, the resort had risen from the ashes, bigger and better than ever, more environmentally friendly and accessible, and with an array of new facilities.

The cabins that surround the main lodge remain, some more rustic than others. Rabbits, descendants of pets from a former era, still roam the grounds as living White Point mascots, and the waves still roll in along the beautiful stretch of white sand that gives the resort its name. It's good to see this grand old resort renewed and revitalized, and ready to welcome the public again.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Liverpool -- Planters and Privateers on Nova Scotia's South Shore

Before the arrival of shiploads of United Empire Loyalists to what are now Canada's Maritime Provinces in the 1780s, another wave of settlement had taken place. These settlers were  the New England Planters, who arrived in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to settle in the lands left vacant by the expulsion of the Acadian population in 1755.  The first of these 8000 Planters began arriving in 1759 and the migration continued until 1768. There was farmland in southern New Brunswick and the Annapolis Valley, but along the South Shore of Nova Scotia it was mostly New England fishermen who arrived, settling in places like Barrington and Liverpool. 

Among the Liverpool settlers of 1762 was Simeon Perkins, born in Norwich, Connecticut, who established a thriving shop and built a shipping trade to support it. Perkins kept extensive and detailed diaries; from them we have gained most of our knowledge of Liverpool life between 1766 and 1812. His home, restored to that era, is operated as part of the Nova Scotia Museum. Because of their New England heritage, the people of Liverpool were initially sympathetic to the American Revolution, but their sympathies shifted after American privateers began capturing the town's trading vessels, Perkins' among them. Locals outfitted a schooner, the Liverpool Packet, captained by Joseph Barss, Jr., which became one of the most famous British privateer vessels of the time.

A side trip from the town of Liverpool offers winding roads along scenic coastline, marked with picturesque rocky coves like Moose Harbour with its collection of blue-and-white fishing boats (above), and smooth, wave-washed beaches like the one at Hunt's Point (below).

Liverpool is nearly two hours away from Halifax on Nova Scotia's Route 103, and those who choose to turn off the highway at this point will find a small service centre for the surrounding rural region; there are restaurants, a microbrewery,  and several hotels, as well as the usual selection of small-town services like filling stations, grocery stores, pharmacies and banks.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Weather Signs

In Atlantic Canada, many of us live our lives with an eye turned to the sky. The weather isn't just something that we can ignore, and it doesn't just serve as fodder for a cable channel, it's a living, breathing part of our everyday life. Hurricanes roll up the east coast of North America in late summer and early autumn and strike with varying degrees of force, uprooting trees and creating flooding; winter storms sometimes strike with just as much force, bringing swirling snow instead of driving rain. Just as quickly, though, the sky can clear as a cold front pushes through, turning the heavens to clear, sparkling blue.

The rippling cloud patterns of a "mackerel sky" usually presage a significant change in the weather.

Nor'easters are warm winter storms that bring with them loads of heavy, wet snow that clings to every surface, no matter how unaccommodating.

Sun pillars light up the sky at sunrise and sunset when conditions are just right, creating a brilliant beacon.

Weather.  We watch it, we talk about it, we grumble when it's bad and take great delight when it's good, and we milk every ounce out of summer but breaking out the summer clothes when the first warm breezes blow and refusing to put them away until the snow flies.  Our very best weather advice if you're headed our way is, prepare to dress in layers, and always carry a jacket -- in case!

Monday, April 01, 2013

What's So Funny?

It's all in how you look at things; a pile of lobster shipping crates stacked on a wharf in a fishing community is pretty commonplace, but when they're marked with the owner's initials and those initials just happen to be H.A., then those same stacked crates are good for a laugh:

And when a bolt gives way, suddenly a sign that used to make sense now tells you that it is forbidden to bring a lower case "d" onto this side of the street:

And finally, sometimes you have to wonder whose job it was to proofread the road signs before they were installed -- or whether there really is a foot birdge at the end of this road: